Sunday, February 25, 2018


Gopher plant, Euphorbia rigida, is one of my favorite early spring bloomers. I don't know why it is called gopher plant unless it is because gophers don't eat it... nor do the deer. That would make sense because the milky sap produced by all euphorbias is not only poisonous but can be extremely irritating to the skin of some people. Care should be taken to wear gloves when cutting the stems.

It is a mystery to me why it was given the species name 'rigida' because it is anything but rigid, the stems trailing along the ground like the tentacles of an octopus. It needs  plenty of room to complete its annual growing cycle.

The foliage is a delightful blue green and when the bracts on the tips of the branches begin to turn chartreuse in the early spring they light up the garden.

That change in color is a sign that the plant is about to flower, although you will have to get down close to view the flowers as, like many euphorbias, they are quite discreet. This morning the plants were buzzing with the sound of bees.

I have them growing above my sunken garden where they can trail over the edge but they look just a well where they are allowed to soften the edge of pathways or patios. They also would dress up a large expanse of mulch or decomposed granite. The bonus is that they are drought, heat and cold tolerant but do require good drainage for best performance.

When the flowers fade you can either cut them back living next years new growth or leave them to set seed. They reseed easily.
At the base of the plant is the new growth which will elongate over the summer in preparation for next year's flowering. Strangely this year it looks as though the new leaves at the crown are also going to flower. That may be due to our late fall and seemingly short winter. I hope the plant has enough umph to make new leaves for next year. During hot, dry weather the stems may lose leaves and become bare but it does nothing to detract from the magic of their long-lasting spring show.

I bought one plant originally and the rest are from seed.


  1. I've always admired these plants when I see them in other gardeners' blog posts. I've got a handful of them myself but, unlike other Euphorbia in my garden, they haven't spread and I've no idea why. Something to do with my sandy soil perhaps.

  2. This plant always looks so different in every garden. Oh and me too! Bought one plant and it's given me a lot of babies.

  3. Beautiful plant, but said to be a vigorous reseeder in my climate, so I'll restrict my enjoyment to your photos.

  4. Wow, what a lovely clump you have now from that one plant! They definitely brighten up the garden.

  5. I've killed this one multiple times, despite good drainage. I'm guessing it wants a full blast of sun?

  6. The combination of blue-green and chartreuse is very striking.